Tuesday, January 10, 2012

When Bad Boards Happen to Good People

Do CEOs get the boards they deserve?  Here are two scenarios to consider:

Scenario #1. Intentional Coaching and Encouragement.  In this scenario, the CEO (or senior pastor) helps the board recruit the right people onto the board bus.  Throughout the year, the board chair and/or the CEO provide board members with a steady flow of governance enrichment opportunities (articles, books, webinars, workshops, consultants, etc.).

Recognizing that every board member brings a certain amount of dysfunction (from prior board experiences) into their current board roles, astute board chairs and CEOs are disciplined at creating a symphony out of one-time soloists.

The problem: this is really hard work. It takes an enormous amount of relational time with schedules that are already overloaded.

The payoff: intentionality is worth the investment. Healthy boards are God-honoring. Joy and grace abound!

Scenario #2: Hopeful Neglect and Frequent Firefighting.  This second scenario is more common to all of us.  Because we don’t have the time to build a great board, we hope and pray (probably—more hoping) that everything will just work out.

Yet, without intentionality, we often settle for second tier board members whose greatest credentials are availability. So they stumble onto the board bus with inferior experience levels and often mixed motives.

Because we haven’t discerned God’s direction in recruiting board talent (an outcome of Scenario #1), we accept “good,” when “better” or “best” could be realized. When the people around the board table don’t have a deep sense of “Holy Ground” in their decision-making, the inevitable verbal fist fights break out—and frequent firefighting becomes the norm.

The problem: in search of solutions, we focus on symptoms.  “If Hank just had more data. If Julie would just attend all the meetings. If Ernesto would just stop micro-managing.”

The payoff: ultimately, this scenario has no payoff. Ultimately, when you eliminate board development opportunities, there is no time or money saved.

“Bad boards” happen to good people frequently, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Choose Scenario #1!

Question: How much does it cost a ministry (time, money, reputation and morale) when the board operates in Scenario #2?

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